Tom Harrell's latest release places his lyrical trumpet and flugelhorn in a Latin jazz setting. All the compositions are his own, and the ensembles employ a number of different artists: featuring Greg Tardy on both clarinet and tenor saxophone, the session also includes violinist Regina Carter, drummers Yoron Israel, Duduka Da Fonseca and Leon Parker, bassists Ugonna Okwego, David Finck, and Andy Gonzalez, bassoonist Makanda Ken McIntyre, and David Sanchez on both soprano and tenor saxophones. Tracing the jazz flugelhorn from early exponent Clark Terry through the late `50s explorations of Miles Davis and Roy Eldridge, then to the later popularity of Chuck Mangione, Harrell's dark, legato expressiveness compares favorably with the instrument's intended function, and the leader is especially comfortable providing softer, gentler Latin melodies.
"Petals Danse" combines Romero Lubambo's acoustic guitar with Greg Tardy's clarinet and Harrell's flugelhorn for a softly flowing piece that evokes memories of Chet Baker's lovely sound. "Samba Do Amor," featuring Sanchez' tenor and Mike Stern's electric guitar, is a lively composition that allows much room for improvisation by them both as well as Harrell. "Madrid" combines the timbres of Brian Carrott's marimba and Gary Smulyan's bass clarinet with flugelhorn and acoustic guitar over a spirited marching rhythm. The dramatic "Oasis" and "Caribe," both highly rhythmic compositions with intriguing twin bassists and appropriate percussion, feature Dewey Redman's tenor saxophone with the highlights of this session. On the former, Redman is supported by exciting piano counterpoint from Danilo Perez; on the latter, Redman's fiery statements are tempered by the steel drum accompaniment of Adam Cruz. Keeping the rhythm at a fascinating level, "Cinco Quatro" is in 5/4 and features lyrical solos from Sanchez on soprano sax, Harrell on flugelhorn, and Lubambo's acoustic guitar. Saxophonist Tardy is especially bold, but always lyrical on "Doo Bop" and "Recitation," and as clarinetist on "Las Almas."
Tom Harrell shares the spotlight with many on this session, introducing new talent and featuring veterans. In dedicating the album to two of his respected associates – the proprietor of Los Angeles' premier jazz club, Catalina Popescu, and powerful Santana trumpeter Luis Gasca – Harrell reminds the general public that his heart remains intent on bringing a wide array of art to his appreciative audiences. Recommended.